Roller Skate History: How Did Roller Skating Become Popular?

Roller Skate History: How Did Roller Skating Become Popular?

Roller skates have been around for hundreds of years. These fun, whimsical skates are still popular among roller skate enthusiasts today as they were many years ago. Ever wondered how these four-wheeled skates ever gained traction amongst the masses? Here is a breakdown of roller skating history and how it became today’s popular activity.


The unpopular beginnings of roller skates


While roller skates are pretty popular today, they did not garner an immediate interest when they were first born. It was reported that the first use of wheeled skates was for a stage show in London in 1743. A couple of years later, in the 1760s, Belgian inventor John Joseph Merlin first patented the roller skates, but it is a far cry from the beautiful ones we know and loves today. Merlin presented his idea in an over-the-top fashion at a party, playing the violin while using his rudimentary contraption that eventually became roller skates. As he was not very adept at manoeuvring in his contraption, he crashed, and very few were interested in this idea.


Roller skating: “Ice-skating” on land


In the 1840s, opera performers used roller skates to simulate the way skating on ice. This positive exposure caused an increase in interest in roller skating, and it soon became a new, popular activity. Ice skaters soon invented figure skating, which led to roller skaters wanting the ability to skate similarly.


The beginnings of “rinkomania”


In 1863, James Plimpton made vast improvements to the skates designed by Merlin. The skate design we see today is very similar to Plimpton’s design. Also known as quad skates, the skates have two pairs of wheels side-by-side, providing a better base for turning, balance and agility. A couple of years later, toe stops were patented to allow skaters to stop safely. Public skating rinks were opened in the 1860s. During this time, roller skates were widely popular and described the craze as “rinkomania”. In the 1880s, mass production of roller skates began causing them to be even more popular and accessible.


Roller skating spike of the 1900s


In the 1970s, roller skates experienced a spike in popularity due to the rise of disco and wheel improvements. During the 70s and 80s, people began to make a lifestyle around roller skating, sparking a roller skating revolution. These skates were not simply a way to move around– many were interested in performing tricks and performing with them, heavily inspired by disco. Popular television shows and music even featured these skates, including Charlie’s Angels and Cher in her music video for Hell on Wheels.


Roller skates today


Roller skating and their single-axle counterparts– inline skates– remain popular sporting activities today for people of all ages. Roller skates in particular, have recently made a revival with roller skating rinks opening up and trending on TikTok, not only for their low barrier to entry but for the retro look people adore.




It is clear that roller skates are here as they have been loved for many generations. Do you want to get your groove on and join the roller skating family? Get yourself a pair of skates today and learn how to start skating safely. Hvper Sport is your one-stop shop for roller skates and accessories to help you get started on wheels. Can’t find a roller skate that suits your taste? Build your own roller skates with our customisation services. Skate in style today with custom roller skates that are uniquely yours.